Reverse transcriptases are used by retroviruses


A reverse transcriptase (RT) is an enzyme used to generate complementary DNA (cDNA) from an RNA template, a process termed reverse transcription. Reverse transcriptases are used by retroviruses to replicate their genomes, by retrotransposon mobile genetic elements to proliferate within the host genome, by eukaryotic cells to extend the telomeres at the ends of their linear chromosomes, and by some non-retroviruses such as the hepatitis B virus, a member of the Hepadnaviridae, which are dsDNA-RT viruses.

Retroviral RT has three sequential biochemical activities: RNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity, ribonuclease H (RNAse H), and DNA-dependent DNA polymerase activity. Collectively, these activities enable the enzyme to convert single-stranded RNA into double-stranded cDNA. In retroviruses and retrotransposons, this cDNA can then integrate into the host genome, from which new RNA copies can be made via host-cell transcription. The same sequence of reactions is widely used in the laboratory to convert RNA to DNA for use in molecular cloning, RNA sequencing, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), or genome analysis.

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